Comparing Red Oak vs. White Oak Flooring

red oak vs white oak flooring
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Your flooring brings style and beauty to your home and plays an essential role in the home’s overall aesthetics and function.

When it comes to choosing the perfect floors, how do you know which type of hardwood is best for you?

Ahh, the battle of red oak vs. white oak, there are a few distinct differences to be aware of. And we are here to answer the burning question.

Let’s explore more about these two types of floors so you can decide which one will work for your home sweet home.

Why Choose Oak Flooring?

There are plenty of different species used for hardwood flooring, but oak tends to be one of the most popular for many homeowners. This beautiful wood is versatile, highly durable, and features a beautiful wavy, swirly grain that makes it attractive in almost any space.

There are two species of oak: white and red. The most obvious differences are the colors. Red oak tends to have a light pink tint to it, and white oak has a much warmer look accompanied by rich golden brown hues. 

While you may imagine that white oak looks white in color, it’s actually darker than red oak in terms of coloring. The red oak is a gorgeous option if you have smaller rooms and want to make a space in your home look larger than it really is.

The grain of red oak is a bit more distinctive than white oak, which means it has a lot more character and variation. If you prefer a more uniform look, white oak might be a better choice especially if you’re going for a modern appearance in the home.

Red oak flooring does tend to show dents and scratches more than white oak. The unusual grain patterns are hidden well on white oak floors, so it’s a great option if you have a busy household with children or pets. 

The Durability of Red Oak vs. White Oak Flooring

Hardwood floors are beautiful, but they also need to be durable in order to get more from your investment. Durability is an essential feature when it comes to flooring, so where does red oak and white oak stand on the longevity scale?

White oak is exceptionally resistant to rot, which means it can handle exposure to water quite well. Aside from flooring, you might see things like outdoor furniture and even boats made of white oak! 

On the other hand, red oak is not as water-resistant and should only be used indoors. You’ll find red oak floors, cabinets, and indoor furniture thanks to its luscious coloring.

In terms of density, white oak is denser, and red oak is a little bit lighter. Red oak also has a porous, open grain, which means it’s more susceptible to damage or stains if it’s not protected with a high-quality sealant. Thanks to a higher level of durability, most white oak flooring will cost more than red oak. 

Questions? Contact a Flooring Professional Today

How to Tell the Difference

You probably can’t tell the difference between red oak vs. white oak at first glance. So, how do you know which hardwood you are looking at which when you’re deciding on the perfect floor? Unfinished oak is much more natural to identify since the color difference between the two species is rather subtle.

Look at the wood, and if you see a reddish-pink hue, it’s probably red oak while white oak is more of a light brown color. Sometimes the wood color can start to fade, and red oak will turn brown if it’s older and has not been treated or finished.

To really spot the difference between the two types of wood, you can make a fresh cut directly into the wood and look at the structure of the grain. When red oak is flat-sawn, you can see the rays on the surface, which are usually no more than one-half inch long. White oak rays are generally at least one inch long or even longer.

If you’re at the hardware store or flooring retailer, look at the end grain. You should notice more open cells in the red oak than you would in white oak. Since white oak is less porous, there should be less open cells on this species.

One final test you can try is a wicking test. When you place a piece of red oak grain-down in some denatured alcohol, it will wick through quickly, while the white oak should show no signs of wicking or only a faint sign. This indicates that the structure of white oak is much less porous and water-resistant than red oak.

You can actually see how the cell structure of red oak works by taking a short piece of the wood and putting one end in water. You can actually blow bubbles through the wood, which exhibits just how much more porous red oak is than white oak.

Choose Your Oak Flooring Carefully

In the battle of red oak vs. white oak flooring, both are equally beautiful, and it really depends on what your desired aesthetic is. However, in terms of durability, white oak seems to be a bit more versatile and can hold up well to spills and water.

Red oak will give your home a lovely pinkish hue that adds a rustic feel to your space. For a more modern look, white oak flooring will provide you with a cohesive, even aesthetic that adds a contemporary touch. Ultimately, both species are beautiful and excellent choices for your hardwood floors.

Visit one of our showrooms to see our latest selection of beautiful hardwood floors and contact us today with any questions so we can help you find the floors of your dreams. 

Browse Our Selection of Oak Hardwood Floor Products

Browse Our Selection of Oak Hardwood Floor Products

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